As I explore forums catering to professional and aspiring authors, my eyes are opening to the strong opinions people form on things such as character point of view. I never in my life have stopped to consider POV when picking out a book to read. Give me an interesting plot for escapism, some intriguing characters to care about, and I’m there.

Likewise as I write it’s mainly what the characters have to say that decides the format of my fiction. But hoping to get my work published means I should pay a little attention to what book buyers want. Right?

A pleasant part of that has been simply reading more contemporary fiction. Another way has been to sample from the countless experiences shared by considerate authors blazing the trail.

Not all has been delightful. For example, I have read that particular styles of writing are actually expected for certain genres. Allegedly, an aficionado scans the first paragraph counting on a certain formula.

I won’t even begin to list what genre follows which blueprint because, frankly, I find the notion disheartening. If that is the case and my offering doesn’t fit will my effort be passed over without a second glance?

It’s a sad thought. So tonight at my desk I’ll advance the plot and not worry about fitting into a mold.

Yet the discovery calls to mind a writing class recommended some months ago by a friend of a friend. Initially enthused, I sat and listened at some length to this stranger’s discourse. It seemed that this lady wrote steamy romance stories that were on the cusp of being published. If I did what she’d done, maybe that could be me!

Quickly I learned that she writes erotica not out of passion but because she thinks she can turn a fast buck. The seminar she touted like a sales pitch sounded as if the “professor” focused less on the craft than how to market material to publishers. And her almost religious fervor made me wonder if she’d get a commission by recruiting others to her cult. As you can imagine, I gave the course a skip.

I am happy to report finding more encouragement than disappointment. Granted, I have yet to officially introduce my works to the world of publishing. My focus remains on telling the story and doing rewrite after rewrite until the end product satisfies me. I’ll worry about the rest later.

So you tell me, gentle reader, what keeps you turning the page?

7 thoughts on “Thoughts on Creating a Page Turner

  1. Tess Miller says:

    How sad that the writer you describe seemed to write for money, no passion or love of the end product involved. I understand why you left the class.
    I imagine that her knowledge for publishing might come in handy for some, but her attitude seems offputting.
    I myself am content to learn to write better, and enjoy myself with a pleasant diversion. It's more like play and less a job.
    Maybe I'm not aiming high enough by not hungering to publish, but for now it's where i want to be.
    A very worthwhile blog entry, Darla.

  2. Tess Miller says:

    How sad that the writer you describe seemed to write for money, no passion or love of the end product involved. I understand why you left the class.
    I imagine that her knowledge for publishing might come in handy for some, but her attitude seems offputting.
    I myself am content to learn to write better, and enjoy myself with a pleasant diversion. It's more like play and less a job.
    Maybe I'm not aiming high enough by not hungering to publish, but for now it's where i want to be.
    A very worthwhile blog entry, Darla.

  3. Tess, I really appreciate the kind words! Fortunately, I didn't spend one dime on the class. I was held as captive audience in my friend's beauty shop. Hiding my horror took effort. And I know what you mean about not having a hunger to publish. This urge is a growing fire sparked a few years ago and fanned recently by the encouragement of others.

  4. I think the important thing to remember is that anyone who tells you "how the publishing world is" and "what the publishing world wants" is only telling you one side of the story. To illustrate: LKH tried to sell her first Anita Blake novel and I believe I read she had 30 rejections? Certainly more than 20. But DEFINITELY more than 1. Yet now, she's blazed an entirely new genre, helped countless of other aspiring authors, and is a New York Times Bestselling author. The man who wrote A History Of Mathematics took it to countless publishers and was told it was completely "unmarketable." He was told, readers don't want it, they're not that smart, they would be bored. An up-and-coming editor took a chance on it and the book took the editor and the author straight to the top of the bestseller list.

    There are no formulas that work consistently in publishing. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn't writing a lot. Read good authors, don't read "any" authors – by that, I mean, consider the source. Never take advice from anyone you wouldn't trade places with. I like: Steven King, Ursula K. LeGuin, Orson Scott Card, and Eudora Welty. All of them have excellent books on the business of publishing and writing and are well worth an acolyte's time (I include myself in that "acolyte" group).

    Basically, you are doing the exact right thing: write more, write more, still write more, learn to edit, understand your craft, and do the best job you can. Remember that when you do submit, it's to a business, so don't submit with your artist brain, submit with your business brain. Have a backup plan: when/if something doesn't sell, know where you're sending it next and the MINUTE you get the rejection, pop it right back out (that advice, by the way, is from another bestselling author, Robert A. Heinlein).

    The fact is, readers are unpredictable. No one could have predicted Harry Potter would do well – it's about a prepubescent boy who becomes a wizard. Big deal, right?

    Well, yes, as it turns out, it WAS a big deal. But J. K. Rowling didn't sit up at nights working on "this story because it will sell," she stayed up nights obsessed with the world and the characters and crafting a damn good story.

    As a rule, develop a filter: if something you read makes you feel down, MOVE ON IMMEDIATELY. Our own sense of optimism is a very underrated, and precious, commodity. We NEED to stay positive. If you find stuff out there that's negative, move on! There's equally as much positive.

    In closing, I'll tell you a sales parable: a shoe company wanted to make inroads in Africa. They sent their two top salesmen there. The first called in a week and asked for a ticket home. "Boss, these people don't even WEAR shoes! What a waste of time!" The other man didn't call, didn't write, and they started to get worried. Finally, a couple or three weeks in, the man called in an excited and agitated state: "Boss! Send more shoes! Can you believe they've never even HEARD of shoes before? We're gonna be rich!"

    Now, I'm not advocating "getting rich," but the parable is apt: sometimes, the only difference between positive and negative is where we approach the problem from.

  5. Nikki M says:

    As I spend time on Divas I am more and more aware that there is a business aspect to writing. I hear people debating about which genres to write in, and which publishers prefer what kinds of books/scenes/language, but these are all people that have been published a few times, and even have multiple publishers.

    Every time we talk about writing, though, it's the same as any conversation you and I have had here or on PDS or anywhere else. What should the character do in that place? Does it work to have the character think this? Is that sex scene hot? – It's about the story, not about the business.

    So I guess what I'm saying is that it seems like when you're writing, the most important thing is the writing. If it's not, it will show in the writing, and the business side of things won't be an issue.

    I do think that as everyone gets more experienced at getting published, the two will mesh together a little bit. But ultimately, make yourself happy with the writing, surround yourself with a support system to help you, and the rest will work itself out.

  6. I turn the page because I have a story I want to tell.

  7. Thank you for the lovely comments!

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